There are ways of talking about paths we get in our minds that are proper and technical and scientific. Just so that you know – I won’t be doing that. I find it easier to talk in metaphor. It has to be said, that the idea of pathways through the mind is passably literal. When it comes to the barbed wire hamster wheel, I may be straying into the realms of the less technically accurate.
The barbed wire hamster wheel is a terrible thing to be on. All you can do is run in its little circle, while the barbed wire flays you. Arriving, and leaving seem, when you’re on the wheel, to be incomprehensible things. More like acts of god, than anything you could have chosen or changed. When on the wheel, with blood and skin flying metaphorically all over the place, it’s almost impossible to be aware of anything other than the wheel.
These are thought processes it is really hard to express in any other way. They don’t obey reason, they aren’t open to recognising cause and effect, they can’t be argued with. The barbed wire hamster wheel has its own truth, and its truth is that you are awful, failing, useless, worthless, and that you absolutely deserve to be trapped in a barbed wire hamster wheel and obliged to run and tear yourself to shreds in it for all eternity. This is what it seems like when some kind of tortured crisis is underway on the inside.
Last weekend I ran for several days in the hamster wheel. I sobbed, and bled, and thought I would be there forever. Usually I get to stop running only because I become so exhausted that I can’t feel anything anymore. This time I stopped running. The difference? I think it’s a consequence of years of being supported in questioning the truth of that wheel, and being encouraged to question why I am running in it.
This week I’ve been able to give it a name (Tom came up with the name for me). In naming it, I have power over it. If those feelings of frantically running in vicious circles come back, I will know what to call them, but maybe they won’t come back, and maybe if they show up, I won’t have to climb inside and start running.
It is a very hard thing to question your own reality. Those questions can seem more terrifying than the wheel does. That’s part of why it’s so hard to get out of the wheel and think something different. But it can be done, and having done it once I at least know that I can do it again.